James Peltzer wanted to make sure he had just the right light when he set out to shoot a dreamlike early-morning image of the Peace Tower illuminated by the rising moon during a lunar eclipse.
“I went out specially at that time of day because I wanted to catch the eclipse, but where I went was guided by where I could get a good composition,” said Peltzer (@james.peltzer), a photographer who has been posting daily on Instagram for the past five years.
Knowing the eclipse would be visible when the moon was near the horizon, he found a prime spot on a footbridge over the Rideau Canal to catch the once-in-a-lifetime picture.
But he didn’t want to leave anything to chance, so he also consulted an app called The Photographer’s Ephemeris, or TPE.
“It allows you to drop a pin in different locations on a map, and it shows you the line of sight for sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset; you can even look at where the sun or moon will be at any point during the day,” he said.
His efforts paid off – the photograph became his most “Liked” Instagram post, and demonstrated how choosing the perfect vantage point can make the difference between a sensational photo and a dud.
“You don’t have to get everything in the shot; I recommend focusing on one aspect,” added Julia Weber (@littlemissottawa) who currently has over 29,000 followers.
“A lot of the best shots are concentrating on just one element, thinking of where the viewers’ eyes are going to go,” she said.
Newbie photographers often focus on the background “and they’ll forget about putting a foreground in,” said Peltzer. He suggests including an element like a bridge or a tree, or framing the scene between two buildings rather than just shooting “a wowie-zowie sky.”
When light is low, a tripod can also be a helpful tool to minimize camera movement. Peltzer used an extreme zoom in his eclipse shot, which meant “any camera wobble whatsoever will make the shot blurry,” he said.
“I’ve taken some pretty nice shots with some pretty cheap tripods,” he added. “When I’m out hiking, I’ll build little rock piles. The trick is to make them stable enough that you can let go of the camera and set a self-timer to eliminate the movement of pressing the button.”
Another key consideration is finding the right subject for your shot; something Weber said isn’t hard to do in the nation’s capital.
“Ottawa lends itself to a lot of great seasonal shots: spring tulips; summer is the Rideau Canal and really great sunsets; autumn is all the leaves changing, especially in Gatineau Park, and winter’s all the snow that covers the capital in white,” she said.
One of her favourite sunset locations is the Ottawa lock station on the Rideau Canal between the Parliament Buildings and the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. “You can walk from behind the Parliament Buildings to the locks and Major’s Hill Park and Alexandra Bridge. All of these spots are incredible for taking photos.”
There’s also Rideau Falls on Sussex Drive, within walking distance of the ByWard Market, and Remic Rapids, which are only about 3.5 kilometres along the bike path from Parliament Hill.
“That’s where, during the summer, a gentleman (named John Felice Ceprano) builds these beautiful balanced rock sculptures. It’s brilliant at sunset, because the sun sets behind those rocks,” said Peltzer.
He also recommends Gatineau Park, a short drive out of downtown Ottawa, where the bike-accessible Champlain Lookout offers a vista of about 100 kilometres.
“What makes Ottawa great is not just the photographer magnets like the gothic Parliament Buildings; it’s the green space, it’s the beautiful gardens, it’s the water,” he said.
“Within the downtown core we have two different waterfalls, three rivers and the Rideau Canal, all connected by bike paths and all lined by gardens.”
But for Peltzer, a first stop for out-of-town guests is the Andaz Hotel in the ByWard Market.
“They have a rooftop lounge called Copper Spirits and Sights that has one of the most breathtaking panoramas of the ByWard Market and downtown at sunset,” he said.
So when you hashtag it #MyOttawa, don’t forget to add #spectacular.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.